By Robert St. John
I am about to embark on a yearlong journey to Europe. My wife, 14-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son, and I will travel to 30 countries over 12 months. I am writing two books, blogging for various newspapers, gathering recipes and culinary contacts, and writing this weekly column.
The trip has been 30 months in the making. Here are the answers to a few of the more frequently asked questions I’ve been fielding during the past two years:
Q: How does one pack for an entire year?
A: That depends on which member of the family you are asking. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m basically packing for two weeks, adding a few layers, and making sure everything can be washed in a sink. If you’re asking my son, he could care less.
If one is asking my wife or daughter, there’s an entirely different story. Whereas he and I are packing light, using very sturdy and mobile luggage, the girls look like they are embarking on a 19th century voyage overseas with trunks and trousseaus and such.
This will be a huge challenge. Sometimes we are staying in a villa for a few weeks, though at other times we are moving at a good clip and hitting a different hotel or B&B every night. The rule – everyone has to carry his or her own luggage.
My prediction – three months into the trip, I’ll be buying new luggage, and the girls will be packing lightly.
Q: How will you get around in Europe?
A: When I am asked this, I think most people are remembering back to the six weeks after college that they backpacked across Europe. I would imagine there is someone out there who has backpacked across a continent with a 10- and 14 year-old, and an air-conditioning-loving wife, but not here.
I bought a car, which we will pick up over there, and we’ll drive around in it. My wife would like to warn any Europeans who might be reading this to beware and be on the lookout, as I will be behind the wheel in a foreign country.
I would warn all Europeans to be on the lookout for the Volvo with the trunks and trousseaus strapped to the top of the car.
Q: Which countries will you be visiting?
A: In order: Greece, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, San Marino, Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Great Britain and Ireland.
Q: What countries are you most excited about visiting?
A: There’s not an easy answer to this one because I’m looking forward to different countries for different reasons. I’m excited about Italy because we’ve just opened a new Italian restaurant and I plan to delve deeper into the food and culture. I’m also in the process of writing an Italian cookbook, so where better to do research.
I have always wanted to go to Spain, so that will be a kick. I love Spanish tapas, but don’t know if I’ll be able to stay up late enough to eat with the locals.
Other potential highlights: seeing the Northern lights from an igloo in Finland, living for a week on a working farm in Sicily, riding a camel in the Sahara desert, ham in Spain, pizza in Naples, pastries in Lyon, Thanksgiving on Lake Como, and having my picture taken walking across Abbey Road.
Robert St.John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.